Having weathered every business downturn for nearly forty years, WCS has learned an important lesson in that no ever regrets making decisive adjustments to changing circumstances.
First and foremost, WCS will maintain a safe workplace and will continue to seek out and adopt practices protecting the health of our employees, customers, visitors or others. We also want to ensure the continuity of WCS’s business operations as this pandemic unfolds.
The world health community continues to monitor closely the emergence Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). At this time, no one knows how severe this outbreak will be and the continued effects upon the economy.
In our experience, seven actions can help businesses of all kinds. We outline them here as an aid to your company, during these times of crisis management. These are only guidelines; they are by no means exhaustive or detailed enough to substitute for a thorough analysis of a company’s situation.
1. PROTECT YOUR EMPLOYEES. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis has been emotionally challenging for many people, changing day-to-day life in unprecedented ways. For companies, business as usual is not an option. You can start by drawing up and executing a plan to support employee’s needs. Establish clear two-way communications that provide a safe space for employees to express if they are feeling unsafe for any reason. Update and monitor proactive policies as well as flex time, reduced hours if requested, and or remote telecommuting.
2. SET UP A CROSS-FUNCTIONAL COVID-19 RESPONSE TEAM. Companies should nominate a direct report of the CEO to lead the effort and should appoint members from every function and discipline to assist. Further, in most cases, team members will need to step out of their day-to-day roles and dedicate some of their time to virus response. A few workstreams will be common for most companies: a) employees’ health, welfare, and ability to perform their roles; b) financial stress-testing and development of a contingency plan; c) supply-chain monitoring, rapid response, and long-term resiliency (see below for more); d) marketing and sales responses to demand shocks; and e) coordination and communication with relevant constituencies. These sub teams should define specific goals for the next 48 hours, adjusted continually, as well as weekly goals, all based on the company’s agreed-on planning scenario. The response team should install a simple operating cadence and discipline that focuses on output and decisions and does not tolerate meetings that achieve neither.
3. ENSURE THAT LIQUIDITY IS SUFFICIENT TO WEATHER THE STORM. Businesses need to define scenarios tailored to the company’s context. For the critical variables that will affect revenue and cost, they can define input numbers through analytics and expert input. Companies should model their financials (cash flow, PAL, balance sheet) in each scenario and identify triggers that might significantly impair liquidity. For each such trigger, companies should define moves to stabilize the organization in each scenario (optimizing accounts payable and receivable; cost reduction; divestments and M&A).
From our experience, the uncertainty will force every company to slow down their cash outlay, regardless of their financial strength. WCS knows from experience navigating the recession of 2008 that the sooner WCS received client placements, the more effective we were. The reasons are twofold: Firstly, WCS established itself “first in line”, in ways that commanded the debtor’s organizational attention. Secondly, WCS’ engagement with the debtor on our clients behalf segued into assurances that if needed, WCS can provide guidance as to how to navigate their A/P crisis stemming from other vendors (so as long as our clients account is being taken care of as their priority). By engaging early and facilitating a resolution on behalf of our clients, along with assurances that WCS can be an asset to the debtor, resulting in expedited recovery as well as a rekindling of the damaged relationship between creditor and debtor.
This is something to think about as we see this as the beginning of some very uncertain and troubling moments in our economy for the foreseeable future. At this time, it is WCS’ experienced position that accounts that are 15 days past terms should be escalated to a) on board your placements, b) conduct our investigation to create multiple contact points, and c) establish WCS “first in line’.
4. STABILIZE THE SUPPLY CHAIN. Companies should start planning how to manage supply for products that may, as supply comes back online, see unusual spikes in demand due to hoarding. In some cases, medium or longer-term stabilization may be warranted, which calls for updates to demand planning, further network optimization, and searching for and accelerating qualification of new suppliers domestically.
5. STAY CLOSE TO YOUR CUSTOMERS MINDSET. Companies that navigate disruptions better often succeed because they invest in their core customer segments and anticipate their changing behaviors. Companies should invest in online as part of their push for multichannel distribution; this includes ensuring the quality of goods sold online.
6. PRACTICE YOUR PLAN. Companies can use tabletop simulations to define and verify their activation protocols for different phases of response (contingency planning only, full-scale response, other). Simulations should clarify decision owners, ensure that roles for each top-team member are clear, call out the major issues that may slow down the response, and ensure that, in the event, the actions needed to carry out the plan are fully understood and the required investment readily available.
7. DEMONSTRATE PURPOSE. Businesses are only as strong as the communities of which they are a part. Companies need to figure out how to support response efforts—such as by providing money, equipment, or expertise.
We are hopeful that this memo, although not comprehensive in nature, was at least helpful to start or continue your navigation in these most unique of times.
Please reach out to WCS here if you would like to talk about how we can can assist your company in maintaining its cash flow during this crisis. On behalf of the WCS Team, we wish for you, your families and business partners to remain safe and healthy.
– Scott Weiss,CEO